The history of our hotel and its surroundings

Exploring the history of Parliament House Hotel

Parliament House is a historic hotel located at the foot of Calton Hill in Edinburgh. Our building is made up of several townhouses, connected together. Numbers 9 to 13 date from the 1760s, while number 15 dates from 1908. Our buildings have had many uses over the centuries. From homes and offices, to the great hotel they form today. So, let’s take a look at the history of our unique hotel and its surroundings…

Parliament House Hotel from the cobbled hill of Calton Hill in Edinburgh
The architecture of our hotel combines townhouses from the 1700s and 1900s.

Hotel architecture, Old and New Town

The city centre of Edinburgh is split into two areas, the Medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town. At Parliament House, we are in the unusual position of being part of both. The oldest part of our hotel is in the tenement style of the Old Town, and the newer part reflects the classical style of the New Town.

Our historic hotel is on a steep slope, so you’ll find a few quirks to the architecture. When they converted it into a hotel, they had to work with the unusual spaces inside. So, we have a sloped corridor, which connects the reception area to the breakfast room. And our kitchens are tucked away in a little basement. Although they couldn’t find room for a separate hotel bar, they were inventive and used a small cubby hole, which we still keep stocked with Scottish tipples.

Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see lots of original features while staying with us. For example, the old range of the building is still intact in our hotel breakfast room. We have a beautiful wrought iron lift shaft, which is now a very unique phone box. And our ornate hotel interiors reflect the classical style of the Georgian era.

Victorian wood panelled booth in hotel
Our old Victorian lift is now a quirky phone booth and seating area.

A unique location on Calton Hill

Our location at the foot of Calton Hill makes us very special indeed. Calton Hill is a truly spectacular place! Take a gentle walk to the top and you’ll experience with the most stunning views of Edinburgh. And there’s so much to explore on your way, including a collection of historic monuments and landmarks. Many are neoclassical in style, resembling the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, and giving Edinburgh its nickname of the “Athens of the North”.

  • National Monument – A war memorial which they started to build on Calton Hill in 1826, but never finished due to the lack of funds. Only a few large columns and some huge stone steps were built. It became known as “Edinburgh’s Disgrace”, but many of us have come to love it the way it is.
  • Nelson Monument – This stands at Calton Hill’s highest point. Built in memorial to Admiral Lord Nelson, its design is based on an upturned telescope. It was completed in 1816 and then became a time signal for ships in 1852, when a Time Ball signalling device was added to the top. You can climb the tower to enjoy impressive views across the city.
  • City Observatory – This was once an astronomical observatory. It has a distinctive design with Grecian-style pillars and a large dome. This building is now home to the Collective Art Centre, which hosts a programme of art exhibitions and displays.
  • Dugald Stewart Monument – A memorial to Dugald Stewart, a Scottish philosopher and professor at the University of Edinburgh. Featuring prominently in one of the most iconic views from Calton Hill, it overlooks the city skyline.
  • Portuguese Canon – A large piece of artillery, which has been on Calton Hill since 1887, after being exhibited at a World’s Fair in Edinburgh the year before. Dating from around the 1400s, the cannon bears a Spanish coat of arms and travelled far before falling into British hands.
View of Edinburgh from Calton Hill
A view from Calton Hill, showing the Dugald Stewart Monument in the left foreground.

The history that surrounds us

The small area surrounding our hotel has so much history, there is a lot to discover right on our doorstep. After exploring all of the monuments and amazing views from Calton Hill, there are many more points of interest, no more than a 10-minute walk from our location. Here are just a few:

  • Jacob’s Ladder – An old Edinburgh walkway, dating from the 18th century or earlier. The 140 steps will take you from Regents Road at the top to Calton Road at the bottom. Take care, as the pathway is steep.
  • Old Calton Burial Ground – An 18th-century cemetery, where several notable Scots are buried. Site of the Political Martyrs’ Monument and the Scottish-American Soldiers Monument, featuring a statue of Abraham Lincoln.
  • Robert Burns Monument – A small neoclassical temple monument, built in honour of Scotland’s national Bard, Robert Burns.
  • Old Royal High School – Also known as New Parliament House, this imposing old government building is built into the side of Calton Hill. Currently not in use, but impressive to view from the roadside.
  • Duke of Wellington – Head in the other direction towards Princes Street and you can’t miss this amazing statue of the Duke of Wellington on horseback, unveiled in 1852.
  • Scott Monument – One of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks, the Scott Monument on Princes Street pays homage to writer, Sir Walter Scott.
The Old Calton Burial Ground in Edinburgh
The Old Calton Burial Ground is just a short walk from our hotel at the foot of Calton Hill.

So, visit our historic hotel and enjoy our unusual mix of 18th and 20th-century architecture, fascinating Edinburgh history and our very special location at the foot of Calton Hill. You can read more about our heritage here.